Sunday, April 22, 2007

Kansas City to Prescott Valley

4:00 a.m. – Three alarms set, only one goes off – didn’t matter, I was awake anyway. I’m pumped and ready to go. Great flight, beautiful views from the air. Yikes, the Phoenix Airport! Now, I’m a seasoned traveler, but that place is a zoo. Off to the rental car bus – there’s about a bajillion buses and I still stand in line for the next one, cuz every bus is packed. Is it high season in Arizona? Me and a whole bunch of other sardines in a can take a 30 minute ride to offsite rental car place. Then off I go.

If I thought the airport was a zoo, I certainly wasn’t prepared for Phoenix traffic. Double yikes – what a mess and construction everywhere! Anywho, finally made it through and headed up the road.

First stop – Bumble Bee, a ghost town some 55 miles north of Phoenix on I-17. Unlike many Arizona ghost towns, Bumble Bee wasn’t a mining town, rather it got its beginning as a stage stop around 1879. However, when gold was found in the area, the stage road began to see more “traffic.” When the ore played out, so did Bumble Bee and later an ill-fated attempt was made to remake it into a tourist destination.

Most of buildings that remain today are from that attempt to beckon people to visit. Alas, their efforts were all in vain. Today, the winding road to Bumble Bee, which soon peters out from pavement to dirt, is a beautiful drive, but there is not a whole lot to see at the end of the road. Not so long ago, the building that once served as the school, later turned residence, offered a gift shop. Today, the building is for sale. While the drive to Bumble Bee is beautiful and the town’s history interesting, there is little left of the town and was a disappointment for this ghost towner. Beyond Bumble Bee, the dirt road, which gradually gets less and less maintained will take you to the ghost towns of Cleator and Crown King. With several other destinations in mind, I opted out of those two, the winding road and the time to to get there and returned to the interstate.

Next, was a stop at Fort Verde State Historic Park, which is one of the best preserved examples of an Indian War period fort in Arizona. Spanning from 1865 through 1890 there were several forts that maintained the many soldiers that protected travelers and settlers from Indian raids. Fort Verde was the primary base for General George Crook's U.S. Army scouts and soldiers. Today visitors can experience a number of historic buildings listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. Cool stop – worth a visit.
Onward north to Montezuma Castle National Monument. Now, that was cool! This 20 room high-rise apartment, nestled into a cliff high above Beaver Creek, was built by the prehistoric Sinagua people more than 1,000 years ago.

Then, I’m excitedly anticipating Sedona, a place I’ve never visited and heard so much about. Rated as the most beautiful place in America and one of the most spiritual and relaxing places in the world, I was shocked!! Yes, it is beautiful! Those towering red rock formations cannot be denied their beauty! But, oh maghosh, what a traffic nightmare – pretty much took any meditative or spiritual thoughts out of this kid, as she tried to pull to the side of the road for a photo opportunity without being rear-ended.
Then, as payment for the three-minute photo stop, wait 10-15 minutes to get back into that quagmire of traffic. Congested! Congested! Congested! This girl likes the “outback.” To Sedona’s credit, they appear to be widening the road; however, for my trip this was just more frustration – orange cones freaking everywhere!! No doubt this will alleviate some of the traffic problems, but my question, how relaxing and serene can a place be once it has been intruded by so many city people? Who, it seems brings their “comfort zones,” including traffic, exclusive boutiques, high real estate prices, and “politically correct” ideals. So, regrettably, Sedona was a bummer.

Taking a turn westward; however, rejuvenated my spirits when I arrived in Jerome. It is everything I had read about. It’s a true rejuvenated ghost town. Getting its start in the 1880’s as a copper mining town, the settlement, perched high atop Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley, boomed to some 15,000 people at its peak.

The mining was so thorough that the hill was eventually filled with underground tunnels and unfortunately some of the buildings began to slide down the hill and collapse. Thankfully, it wasn’t all of them, as today this quaint town of some 400 residents continues to display a number of historic buildings, so much so, that the entire town site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, this quaint town of about 400 residents provides tourists with not only a view of the past, but also a number of specialty shops, restaurants and galleries.
Of Jerome's many resident ghosts, I didn’t encounter any, but then again, I wasn’t looking for them.

Down the steep hill into Prescott Valley, I welcomed the sight of my hotel, a little dinner, and a pillow for my head.

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